Sleepover with an 84 year old friend

“Jane is spending the night,” I announced to my kids yesterday. From the wild whoops of joy that followed and the “happy dance” of my five year old, no one would guess that Jane was not a favorite classmate, but an octogenarian.

Part I of the story of Jane is here, and now I’ll give you a bit of Part II.

Jane with Little L at breakfast

This lovely sun-drenched November morning found Jane and Little L in their jammies at the breakfast table. “Gram- I mean, Jane,” began Little L, in the usual way of my children, who, as many young children, mistake any dear older person in their life for a grandparent, “do you want to play a game?”

It’s been over four years since we met Jane, and as I told you in Part I, she was the neighbor whom I sought out as a friend for my mom. It turns out that Jane is a friend to our whole family, and especially to me. I began writing Part I when Jane was beginning chemotherapy for her breast cancer. I had no sense of whether she’d make it or not, and wanted some kind of record of her place in our lives.

Over the course of the year of her cancer, I drove Jane to countless doctor visits and treatment sessions. Thankfully, she had a cheerful-spirited oncologist who didn’t mind my four young children in tow, and a time or two he even proudly held my baby (Little L). It was a year of vacuuming her floor, bringing her groceries, and hopefully modeling for my children how (and why) to care for our elders.

At many points, I was sure Jane would die, and dreaded having to call her only son in Canada. What would I say to him? The chemotherapy made her so sick she was unable to even walk. Jane is a feisty old lady, however, and quit her chemotherapy treatments halfway through, refused radiation, and took her chances. Her doctor was baffled and a bit angry with her – someone with cancer in her lymph nodes shouldn’t take chances.

By the grace of the Almighty God, Jane survived, and as we enjoyed our coffee this morning, I pondered how she has developed a relationship with all the generations in my household – from my children, to my husband and me, to my mother. We moved to the country and don’t get to see her as much as we did when she was a few houses away, but I believe we’ve managed to cement a lifelong connection.

Jane will be 84 in a few weeks, and we were having an early celebration. What an amazing, divine appointment for us to have met, to help her on this journey. And the blessing on my children I consider to be immense. How many four, five, or nine year-olds cherish an “old lady” the way they do? I know I didn’t when I was young. The kids suckered Jane into games of Sorry, Hi-Ho Cheerio, and Monopoly by the time she left.

And Jane is still my mom’s only friend here. I tenderly watched them chatting on the couch last night. “When I was in Niagara Falls,” Jane began, relating a story from her childhood. “My dad was from Buffalo,” my mom interjected, “I don’t think that’s too far from there.” “Thirty-five miles,” Jane replied.

It was a slumber party that didn’t include staying up late or pillow fights. Our twice-widowed guest needed help walking up the stairs and a gentle reminder of where the bathroom was. But I will tell you that a sleep-over with an 84 year old is a marvelous thing, a mix of fading memory and wisdom woven into meaningless details.

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15 Responses to Sleepover with an 84 year old friend

  1. Kathleen says:

    I understand the value of having a friend in her 80’s. A few years ago I worked for and became good friends with a man in his 80’s. He had no family locally and had so much to share. I’m sure my little family brightened his life (he’s been gone 2 years now) but he was a huge blessing to us!

  2. Jen says:

    Kathleen, what a neat opportunity for you. I agree, this kind of relationship is such a mutual blessing – both parties are receiving something very special!

  3. SmallWorld says:

    “But I will tell you that a sleep-over with an 84 year old is a marvelous thing, a mix of fading memory and wisdom woven into meaningless details.” Beautiful. And I love your new blog header.

  4. Becky says:

    I have an 83 yr. old man that works part time at my work. He looks forward everyday to stopping in my office just to chat.
    Older people have a wealth of information and are ready and willing to share with anyone who’ll listen.

  5. Jen says:

    Smallworld, thank you! And glad you like the Van Gogh print up there. I hope I get to visit Provence some day. :-)

    Becky, How neat! I used to work in a law office, and the original partner, then in his late 70s, used to come in everyday even though he was retired. He’d stop at my office and chat each day, just like your friend, and this was the absolute favorite part of my day. He was a war veteran (a fighter pilot) and had some stories to tell and so much wisdom. He taught me the “fake it til you make it” outlook, and I always think of him when I’m facing a situation where I have to do just that.

  6. Heather says:

    Beautiful and wonderful. Our next door neighbors are all elderly and are such wonderful blessings to our family.

  7. Julie says:

    What a beautiful story – your service and love for Jane over these years has blessed me to watch. I love seniors (and have a post coming up this week that talks of this very thing!)… But you model what I believe is so important – to bridge the generation gap and bask in the wisdom of the older folks among us.

    You are amazing. I Can’t imagine a better sleep over guest!

    How is Jane’s cancer? Is it gone? Do they even check anymore? Does she have alzheimer’s too now?

    You could email my privately if you don’t want to post it all here!

  8. Renae says:

    What a touching post! I got tears in my eyes reading it. When I was a teenager, I became friends with our neighbor who was many decades older than me. I remember baking with her, mowing her lawn, washing her car, and visiting for hours. She was a school teacher in a one room school house and I’m so thankful she shared her memories with me.

    It is such a blessing to have friends who have lived through so much. May God continue to bless your family for blessing Jane.

  9. Jen says:

    Heather, thank you. Your neighbors are blessed to have you there!

    Julie, thank you for the very kind words.

    Jane is doing great, really, considering everything. She has no idea if her cancer is there or not; she hates going to the doctor and thinks they’re all out for her money! But for now, she’s fairly healthy, and that’s very important. At this late stage of life, one has to consider quality of life and if the treatment will even lengthen life or not. Her memory is weakening but is actually much better than my mom’s at this point.

    Renae, awesome memory of the one-room-school teacher! I would have loved to hear her stories, too.

  10. Amydeanne says:

    This is the stuff great memories are made of!

  11. tipper says:

    Jane sounds like an amazing person and how lucky you guys are to have her in your life!

  12. Sheila says:

    Jennifer that is sooooo awesome!!!!!

    I see the beauty of how God designed ministering to our kids with ministering to others and being ministered to all intertwined and dependent upon each other. Setting out to reach out to Jane for your mom ended up being an outreach to you and for your kids!

    By the way, I have a fun little blog award for you.
    You can get it here:

    http://a-homemakers-meditations.blogspot.com/2008/11/for-fun-kreativ-blogger-award.html

    Have a great thanksgiving!

    Sheila

  13. Jen says:

    Amydeanne, thanks for stopping by!

    Tipper, Yes, we do consider ourselves fortunate to have her.

    Sheila, thank you! The weaving together of those ministries is really amazing.

  14. Becky Krist says:

    Oh Jen, what a special story! Your kids will look back one day and smile when thinking about that sleep over. She is so darling at the table with ‘Little L’. Hope all is well with y’all!

  15. e-Mom says:

    You’ve told such a touching story… and put my “troubles” into perspective. Bless you for showing such kindness to elders, both Jane and your Mom. Jennifer, you’re an example to us all. (((Hugs)))

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